The best gaming laptops


The best gaming laptops

Desktop gaming will always be the pinnacle of the PC gaming experience, but gaming laptops have come a long way in the last couple of years. Some even rival their desktop counterparts in power, design, and affordability. Whether you’re looking for a serious gaming laptop or just a notebook that happens to have a discrete GPU, there are more options than ever out there.

So scroll down and join the growing ranks of laptop gaming adherents — here’s our list of the best gaming laptops on the market today.

At a glance

Best gaming laptops Category Our rating
Alienware 17 R5 Best gaming laptop overall 4 out of 5
Razer Blade Best portable gaming laptop 4.5 out of 5
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Best cheap gaming laptop 3 out of 5
Dell XPS 15 Best stealth gaming laptop 4.5 out of 5

Alienware 17 R5

The best gaming laptop

Alienware 17 R5 review
Jayce Wagner/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: You want to play the latest games at the highest settings and don’t mind a big laptop.

Why should you buy this: You want to play the latest games at the highest settings and don’t mind a big laptop.

Who’s it for: Gamers who don’t mind spending a little extra to snag the best performance on the market.

How much will it cost: $1,500+

Why we picked the Alienware 17 R5:

What is the Alienware 17 R5 doing right? Perhaps the better question is “what isn’t it doing right?” Among the first laptops on the market to feature a six-core Intel Core i9 processor, the Alienware 17 also has an Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card, and 32GB of RAM. It’s probably the most powerful laptop we’ve tested to date. 

With a GTX 1080 graphics card and that monster of a processor, which is unlocked and overclock-ready, the Alienware 17 R5 made short work of just about everything we threw at it. 

That’s because of the incredible amount of power Alienware has crammed into this laptop. Between the Core i9 and GTX 1080, you can run just about anything at just about any resolution. The display tops out at 1440p, but it has a refresh rate of 120Hz, so your gameplay is just impossibly smooth. Plus, with hardware like this, we had no trouble hitting at least 120 FPS in most games. 

The design is definitely one you’ve seen before if you’ve ever laid your eyes on an Alienware laptop, but it still works and the build quality is as excellent as ever. 

Read our full Alienware 17 R5 review

Razer Blade

The best portable gaming laptop

Razer Blade (2018) car wallpaper

Why should you buy this: You want a gaming powerhouse with MacBook style.

Who’s it for: Gamers who need something small and light that can still pack a punch.

How much will it cost: $1,900+

Why we picked the Razer Blade:

The Razer Blade offers serious gaming performance in a slim package. The newest version packs an 8th-gen Intel Core i7-8750H CPU in with either an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q or GTX 1070 Max-Q for graphics. You can still get the older, 14-inch model, but we recommend springing for the 2018 version. It managed more than 80 frames per second in Battlefield 1 on Ultra in our testing and not far off 60 in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided with everything maxed out.

The system bolsters its slim design with an attractive, matte black, unibody aluminum exterior. The result is a system that looks a lot like the black MacBooks of yore (that’s a compliment). With its slick design and impressive, Chroma-lit keyboard and touchpad, it stands out in the crowd. Even more impressive is the 144Hz 1080p display, which should ensure that framerates stay high.

Though it has many strengths, the Blade does fall victim to the limitations of its own footprint. Historically, they’ve run hotter and louder than competitors with a thicker chassis, and it’s not as powerful as a GTX 1080 GPU you find in some other laptops. The price is also high, starting at $1,900 for a model with a 256GB SSD and the 1080p display. If sleek and portable is what you’re looking for in a gaming laptop though, the Razer Blade is one of the best options.

Our full Razer Blade (2018) review

Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming

The best cheap gaming laptop

dell inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop late 2017 review 888
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s the best gaming machine you can buy for less than $1,000.

Who’s it for: Students, gamers, anyone who wants a gaming laptop but doesn’t want to break the bank.

How much will it cost: Starts at $900

Why we picked the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming:

This budget-friendly laptop may not seem like a gaming powerhouse, but as one of the cheapest systems with a dedicated GPU, it can’t be ignored. It’s more modest than the other systems here, coming standard with an Intel Core i5-7300HQ and 8GB of RAM. The real star of the show is its graphics card, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card with Max-Q design. During our tests it nearly kept up with more expensive and laptops like the Razer Blade. It doesn’t look quite as sharp, but it has more than enough horsepower to run the latest games at high detail settings.

Our review unit hit 65 frames per second while running Battlefield 1 on ultra at 1080p. Even running Deux Ex: Mankind Divided at ultra, the frame rate holds at around 37 FPS, a very playable score which rises considerably with the settings turned down a bit. Both games are easily playable at medium to high settings and 1080p resolution.

Unfortunately, the Inspiron 15 Gaming does look like a budget system. It’s a bit too thick, clad in an abundance of less-than-sturdy plastic. The screen’s bezel bends, as does the system’s touchpad.  All that extra plastic means it’s a bit bigger than it should be, even for a 15-inch gaming laptop. In addition, its display is one of the weakest we’ve tested in years, getting progressively worse than even in previous versions.

The good news is that Dell has rebooted the lineup, rebranded as the Dell G Series. Not only is the name easier to remember, the line will now offer configurations as cheap as $750, all with discrete GPUs. Once we get our hands on those, you can expect one to replace the Inspiron 15 Gaming on this list.

Our full Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming review

Dell XPS 15

The best stealth gaming laptop

best 15-inch laptops Dell XPS 15

Why should you buy this: It’s a gaming laptop you can bring to work.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants to be able to game on the go without carrying around a black-and-red behemoth.

How much will it cost: Starts at $1,000

Why we picked the Dell XPS 15:

The Dell XPS 15 might not seem like a gaming laptop, and to be fair it really isn’t one. But that’s the key of the category of “stealth gaming laptop,” which is becoming more and more possible. The XPS 15 is about to receive the 8th-gen treatment, so it now comes standard with a quad-core Core i5-8300H, or can be purchased with the six-core Core i7-8750H.

Plus, it starts at just $1,000, which undercuts most of the other laptops on this list, with the exception of the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming. While the new Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 makes a compelling effort to do something different with the keyboard and GPU, it’s price point isn’t low enough to make us want it over the XPS 15.

The best part is that it was recently updated in 2018, which is now available for purchase over at Dell. It comes at some new, high-powered configurations that feature a Core i9-8950HK and 4GB of GTX 1050 Ti. That’s a whole lot of gaming and processing power for a laptop that looks as appropriate for a coffee shop as a MacBook Pro. The Dell XPS 15 is remarkably thin and light, despite carrying considerably more gaming hardware than an average work laptop.

Our full Dell XPS 15 review

How we test

When we test a laptop, particularly a gaming laptop, we leave no spec un-tested. Starting from look-and-feel and running all the way through individual hardware tests, laptops that enter our lab don’t leave until they’re put through their paces in every conceivable way.

On top of formal testing, we spend a lot of time with the laptops that come through out offices. We’ll use them for everyday work and web browsing, in hopes of catching any elusive issues that evaded our earlier testing. For more information on how we test laptops, you can read a full run-down over here.

What to expect out of a gaming laptop

Gaming laptops have come a long way in the last couple years. While some are still the big LED-clad behemoths we’ve come to know and love, it’s become easier and easier for manufacturers to cram some serious performance into small packages. Just look at the Razer Blade. It’s no bigger than other non-gaming laptops, but it’s able to deliver some seriously impressive performance.

That said, can you expect desktop-level performance out of a notebook? Well, almost. The best gaming laptops on the market come close, but there are a few areas that desktops still have an edge.

First up, desktop gaming rigs are bigger, so they’re more spacious inside. That extra space is important for heat diffusion. Even the most high-efficiency gaming laptop will still have some issues when it comes to heat accumulation. Inside a laptop’s chassis, everything is crammed together so tight there isn’t much manufacturers can do to reduce heat, other than just pump it out as fast as possible.

Similarly, gaming desktops will almost always have better processors because they don’t need to worry about battery life or the aforementioned heat issue. They can suck down as much power as they need to run those 4.0GHz octa-core processors without batting an eye. In the process, they’ll generate a massive amount of heat which is easily dispersed with air cooling.

So, when it comes to performance, a great gaming laptop will come close to a desktop gaming experience in all but those areas. It’s going to run hotter, and it’s going to run a little slower. The desktop is faster, but if you only want a laptop, you can make it work.

Editors’ Recommendations

Published at Wed, 04 Jul 2018 00:00:28 +0000


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